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Quintessential “new Jew” saved Israel 3 times




One cold winter evening in 1957 on Amatzia (the Israel military outpost opposite Hebron, right against the then border with Jordan, manned by Betarim serving in Nachal), we 5 South African Nachal volunteers in the Israel Defence Force saw a mysterious group of about 20 soldiers in battle gear, shroudered in secrecy, sitting 60 metres away from the outpost itself; on their own – not communicating with anyone.

I asked our commander what was going on, and he told me in hushed tones – brimming with admiration – that they were members of the famous Unit 101, led by the already legendary Ariel Sharon, known to all as simply “Arik”.  

My curiosity getting the better of me, I ventured closer to the group and witnessed how much his men venerated their leader who cut a striking figure in the fading light, as he prepared them for unconventional warfare behind enemy lines.

It was a time when the Fedayeen terrorists were pouring through Israel’s borders, and the Israel Government had asked Arik to form a special dedicated force to deal with the problem. 

Abel DavidMilitary intellegence identified where the Fedayeen were coming from, and Unit 101 took over from there. One can only imagine the kind of havoc they caused in the dead of night when attacking the enemy in unconventional warfare beyond the borders. No wonder he was hated by the Arabs and the Palestinians.

Founder of Likud

And now, some 57 years later as the national vice chair of Likud South Africa based in Cape Town, I have the honour of paying tribute to Ariel Sharon as the founder of the Likud party, and one of Israel’s greatest national heroes.

The quintessential “new Jew” (as visualized by the great Zionist leader Jabotinsky) – “proud, generous and fierce” – there has never been anyone like Sharon who, during his lifetime as a warrior/soldier and politician, saved the state of Israel 3 times!

As a military commander, Arik famously coined the battle cry “acharai” (after me) as he went into battle – which became the rallying call among officers of the IDF.

First time Sharon saved Israel

And the first time he saved Israel was during the 1973 Yom Kippur War – when the country stood on the brink of defeat. Ignoring orders, he daringly broke through and crossed over the Suez Canal behind enemy lines, trapping the entire Egyptian 3rd Army by cuting off their supply lines. The Israelis loved him, and they danced in the streets singing “Arik, Melech Yisrael, chai chai ve’kayam!”

A few years later, Israel and Egypt signed a formal peace agreement.

Second time Sharon saved Israel

The second time he saved Israel, was as a Cabinet Minister in Menachem Begin’s Likud Government, when Israel desperately needed the influx of new immigrants to sustain the growth and viability of the country. Typically astute in character, he used the opportunity when addressing the Jewish community of Moscow, declaring: “I have come here to take one million Jews to Israel!”.

Sharon - Ariel waveThe following year he earned the nickname of “the bulldozer” as he pushed forward, accommodating 1 million new Russian olim that year – the equivalent of America accommodating 50 million immigrants in one year! 

Sharon’s (PICTURED LEFT) other famous slogan which informed all of his actions, was: “k’mo tzarich!” (Do it as it needs to be done).  

Certainly, he was a leader who was not afraid to take risks, make decisions and carry them out – in the face of all the odds. The settlement of the Jewish heartland, Judea and Samaria, had no greater champion than Ariel Sharon. Under his watch, the government departments of agriculture, defence, housing, construction, trade and infrastructure etc. somehow all became responsible for Jewish settlement – k’mo tzarich!

Third time Sharon saved Israel

The third time Arik saved Israel was during the time of the two intifadas when Palestinians were killing Israelis indiscriminately through suicide bombers blowing up buses, market places, restaurants, yeshivot and even wedding & Passover celebrations. In desperation, the people of Israel turned to the indomitable Sharon – their Churchilll, their go-to man in times of trouble, their action man!

As a new Likud Prime Minister, he sprang into action, tightened up all aspects of national security and gave the go ahead to build the Security Wall which, until today, has dramatically reduced terror attacks and suicide bombings – k’mo tzarich!

Also, as painful as it must have been for him personally – as the driver & patron of the settlement movement – he pulled Israel out of Gaza unilaterally in an effort to determine Israel’s borders on his own terms. And Hamas, instead of building up their own society, chose instead to launch missiles and rockets into Southern Israel. But the upside for Israel is that it enhanced the Jewish state’s ability to now tell the world: we have been there and done that; the principle of withdrawal from land for peace does not work without the provision of watertight security arrangements, and the recognition of Israel as the Jewish state. 

And so, thank God for Ariel Sharon!

Farewell captain, my captain! May You Rest in Peace

Shalom Arik – probably the greatest warrior of the Jewish People since Samson!


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